Last week, the Biden-Harris Administration partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to announce $91 million in grants through the America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC). The ATBC grants will support projects that conserve, restore, and connect wildlife habitats while also increasing access to nature and community resilience. The 55 grants will support landscape-scale conservation projects in three U.S. territories, 14 Tribal Nations, and 42 states. Over $1.1 billion in applications were received for the ATBC.

The ATBC coordinated funding though a one-stop-shop to make the grant process simpler for states, Tribes, and communities. Grantmaking agencies include: the U.S. Department of the Interior through the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, and Native Americans in Philanthropy.

Leaders across the conservation, outdoor recreation, philanthropic, academic, and environmental justice communities are applauding this “innovative and thoroughly practical tool” for helping fulfill President Biden’s America the Beautiful goal to conserve, connect, and restore 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

See below for what they’re saying:

Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture: “Restoring and maintaining 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands and conserving hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural and private lands is a task too large for any one organization to do alone. That is why we have long worked with a wide array of partners and our co-stewardship agreements with Tribal nations help bridge the gap between what we can accomplish ourselves and the work we all know needs to get done together. These grants help make those connections possible.” [Statement, 11/10/22]

Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior: “Nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and every community in America. Through the America the Beautiful Challenge, we are investing in projects that advance collaborative conservation utilizing the best available science, innovative practices, and Indigenous Knowledge to help conserve and protect our lands and waters. This work will create jobs, strengthen our economy, address equitable access to the outdoors, and help tackle the climate crisis.” [Statement, 11/10/22]

Paul Cramer, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment: “The 2022 America the Beautiful Challenge grants support the long-term sustainability and resilience of Department of Defense (DOD) missions in the Georgia and Fort Huachuca Sentinel Landscapes and exhibit the valuable collaboration occurring across local, state, and federal partners. DOD will continue supporting activities through the streamlined America the Beautiful Challenge to safeguard critical testing and training missions at installations across the country, all while protecting valuable habitats and accelerating national security strategies.” [Statement, 11/10/22]

Jeff Trandhal, Executive Director and CEO, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: “The inaugural year of the America the Beautiful Challenge shows what’s possible when partners go all-in on a collaborative approach to providing resources for locally led restoration efforts. These grants will support voluntary landscape-scale conservation efforts that will restore fish and wildlife habitats across the nation and build a brighter future for all of us.” [Statement, 11/10/22]

Tom Cors, Senior Director for Legislative Affairs, The Nature Conservancy: “Today’s announcement is another critical step toward the America the Beautiful goal, investing in on-the-ground projects that boost conservation of our natural resources, restore biodiversity, and invest in communities. These grants are important for states and tribes to build conservation from the ground up, enacting locally appropriate decisions that translate to lasting results across landscapes. With biodiversity shrinking and climate change accelerating, we need to expand this work, and these grants will do just that.”

Drew McConville. Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress: “Today’s announcement showcases the innovation, vision, and potential of conservation led by local and Tribal leaders. By supporting these solutions to conserve and restore America’s lands and waters, the Biden administration and its partners are making good on a promise to stand with communities as they tackle the loss of nature, climate change, and inequitable access to the outdoors. But with the threats to nature accelerating and demand vastly outstripping available funding, the projects funded today are just a start. If America is going to conserve its natural assets before it’s too late, government and philanthropic leaders need to dig deeper and fund conservation projects at a scale that matches the urgency of this moment.”[Statement, 11/10/22]

Greg Masten (Yurok), Vice President of Tribal Nations Engagement & Special Projects, Native Americans in Philanthropy: “The 2022 America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC) is an integral milestone in private and public partnership funding for Tribally led conservation projects. The ATBC included an emphasis on supporting Tribal Nation access to grant funding for restoration, conservation, and capacity building to incorporate Indigenous ecological knowledge. The funding will aid the first stewards of the environment, our Tribal Nations and peoples, to manage projects that promote and enhance climate resiliency, sustainable and traditional ecological practices, protect and restore lands, waterways and wildlife for many generations to come.  Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) partnered with NFWF to support the Tribally led projects by providing the non-federal match requirement. Congratulations to all of the Tribally led projects that were awarded funding. NAP’s Tribal Nations Conservation Pledge and Funding Collaborative will continue to support these other Tribally led conservation projects.” 

Mark Magaña, Co-Chair and Founding President and CEO, GreenLatinos: “The America the Beautiful For All Coalition is proud to see the diverse span of America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC) grants that are ensuring frontline communities can remediate the challenges threatening land, water and wildlife across the states and territories. ATBC Grants are making it possible for frontline communities to take control of conservation efforts and create a thriving workforce in restoration. These grants reinforce the pride in our majestic lands and waters held by Americans in every U.S. ecosystem, and by the Tribal Nations who have been in relationship with U.S. lands and waters for time immemorial. ATBC funding is a direct act of remediating the environmental violence that frontline communities have endured and resisted throughout American history in manners that directly benefit wildlife and climate change resilience. The large quantity of grants issued to Tribal Nations is a significant step forward in meeting a Justice40 metric in U.S. conservation investments. We thank the Biden-Harris Administration and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation who today announced $91 million in ATBC grants.”

Pat Gonzales- Rogers, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Yale Center for Environmental Justice: “The American Beautiful Challenge grants are at once an innovative and thoroughly practical tool to utilize large landscapes in not just the important task of addressing the negative impacts of climate change, but also integrate and advance traditional native practice while protecting cultural and sacred sites. Moreover, it makes recognition that direct financial support must be made directly to the communities, largely BIPOC, that live and struggle with these conditions.”

Jamie Williams, President, The Wilderness Society: “The Wilderness Society applauds the announcement of funding from the America the Beautiful Challenge. The breadth and diversity of projects and awardees, and in particular the number of Tribally-led conservation projects, sets an encouraging the future of conservation on a more inclusive and holistic path. The nearly $91 million in deserving awards will support the urgent locally-based work that needs to be done around the country—to save wildlife, restore natural systems and make our communities more climate resilient. The $900 million that remains to be funded highlights the critical need for increased investments to reduce nature loss and address the rapid ways climate change is impacting our lives.”[Statement, 11/10/22]

Chris Hill, Associate Director of Lands, Water, Wildlife Campaign, Sierra Club: “Thriving landscapes means thriving communities. Protecting more of the lands and waters that make up this country will preserve vital wildlife habitat and ensure that more communities have direct access to nature and the benefits of the outdoors. Moreover, these projects will help us achieve the conservation goals we must meet to stave off a climate catastrophe. The Sierra Club is thrilled with today’s announcement of this serious investment in lands and water conservation – we hope it is the first of many to secure this natural inheritance for the next generation.” [Statement, 11/10/22]

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable: “Outdoor Recreation Roundtable is proud to join the Biden Administration in celebrating today’s announcement. Outdoor recreation is a $862 billion industry that creates jobs, bolsters local and national economies, supports rural development and boosts the physical and mental health of recreationists all across the country. Protecting and conserving public lands and waters is of the utmost importance so that Americans can access and enjoy the great outdoors for generations to come. We applaud NFWF and the many partners who make these grants possible, and who complete the projects in the months and years to come.”

Center for Large Landscape Conservation: “This is an exciting and unprecedented investment in landscape conservation across the US. Congrats to our partners the Blackfeet Nation & Fort Belknap Indian Community for being awarded America the Beautiful Challenge grants for tribally led conservation!” [Tweet, 11/14/22]


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